FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Rodolfo Pizarro is healthy again, and Inter Miami is hoping that leads to the type of difference-making performance this weekend that has largely alluded him this season.
Inter Miami returns home to Drv Pnk Stadium for a Week 7 bout vs. D.C. United, and Pizarro is available for selection for the game after missing out on last weekend’s 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire because of an injury. Herons head coach Phil Neville said on Thursday that Pizarro had been dealing with a hip flexor, but the Mexican midfielder resumed training with the rest of the team this week and is expected to be on the match-day roster on Saturday.
What’s more, Neville is looking for Pizarro to make an impact.
“Obviously a lot of people talk about Rodolfo and there is lots of speculation about Rodolfo, but as I keep telling everybody and I tell Rodolfo especially is that we love him in this football club,” said Neville. “He is a big player, a big part of this football club. Now it is about providing a platform for him to go out on Saturday against D.C. and give his absolute best, but actually start enjoying his football and playing with a little more freedom and be that level of player that we know he can be.
“He is under no illusions about the level that he wants to be (at), should be (at), and we just need to make sure that we support him in helping him get to those levels that we need him to be at.”
Pizarro may be back in the squad for Saturday’s tilt, but there is no guarantee he starts. The veteran attacker had been dropped from the lineup prior to his recent hip flexor injury, serving as a late-game substitute in the Week 5 win over FC Cincinnati while Federico Higuain got the nod at the No. 10 spot.
The Designated Player that was left off of Mexico’s roster for next month’s Concacaf Nations League matches has just one assist and no goals in six MLS appearances this season, production that is far from overwhelming. Still, Neville lauded Pizarro’s overall efforts while stating that improvements in the final third are needed from the 27-year-old star.
“I think in terms of his work ethic and sacrifice for the team, he has been as good as anyone in the team. That is without a shadow of a doubt,” said Neville. “He just has probably not got his rewards in the areas that he wants to contribute more than anything. We spoke at length about him being a big impact player for the team with goals and assists and key passes.
“I suppose that is the area that we now need to see more from Rodolfo, but … attitude-wise I am really, really pleased with him. Now I want him to get the rewards for the hard work he is putting in, the sacrifice he is doing for the team and for his teammates. Saturday will be that platform, and hopefully he can produce a performance.”
injured FRAY “integrating” into first team
Ian Fray is still a ways away from getting back to full health, but he has taken the next step in his road to recovery by running on the field again.
An Ian Fray sighting at training today.
The young centerback — who tore an ACL in voluntary workouts before the start of preseason — did some light jogging and running on a far field under the watch of a trainer.#InterMiamiCF #MLS pic.twitter.com/sCyaAuvpGY
— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) May 27, 2021
Fray was spotted in practice on Thursday morning during the portion that was open to media. The teenage centerback who tore an ACL in voluntary workouts prior to the start of preseason this past winter jogged lightly on one of the far fields at Inter Miami Training Center under the supervision of a member of the technical staff, and is slowly but surely being brought back into the mix with the squad.
“He is integrating with the first team,” said Neville. “He was in our team meeting this morning. We are trying to give him a little bit of excitement, something to keep spurring him on. That injury is one of the most devastating ones because it keeps you out of a job that he wanted to do. He had had a great, great pre-preseason where I had such high hopes for him and seeing him out on the grass the last couple of days has been really exciting.”
Whether the 18-yard-old Fray, who signed with the team as an academy player this past offseason, can get back to 100 percent in 2021 is unclear. Neville did not offer a timetable for Fray’s recovery, but made it clear that Inter Miami is high on the promising defender.
“I am not going to put any timeframe on it,” said Neville. “He is a young player that needs to recover fully and if he recovers fully back to his athletic best he has got a big future at this football club. I think everybody knows that and he knows what I think of him.
“We are taking things really steady with him, but integrating him back into the atmosphere and the togetherness of the training grounds is really important.”
Neville also provided on Thursday an update on another of Inter Miami’s walking wounded, saying that winger Robbie Robinson would “probably” be sidelined through the upcoming international break. Robinson suffered an apparent left hamstring injury for the third time this year in the loss to the Fire.
players eager to play in front of LARGEST home crowd
When Inter Miami takes the field on Saturday, it will likely do so in front of the largest crowd that has ever taken in a game at Drv Pnk Stadium.
The South Florida venue will operate at full capacity for the first time ever this weekend, and a sell-out crowd of approximately 19,000 fans is possible. Inter Miami players are excited about the opportunity that stands in front of them, and want to reward the supporters with the first home win of the season.
“Truthfully I cannot wait for the weekend to get here so that the fans can be there singing, with the entire stadium full,” said versatile defender Nicolas Figal in Spanish. “Honestly it makes me very, very happy and I head into the game in a different manner, with much more desire and incredible anxiousness.”
Added winger Lewis Morgan: “The fans have been amazing. Last year when they started being allowed in and the start of this year they have been amazing. … They never let the club down, so it is time for us players to start getting wins here at home and repaying their support.